is it safe to have a pet snake

Is it safe to have a pet snake?

by Manish Singh

There are several misconceptions surrounding snakes. One of the biggest is the belief that snakes are dangerous or make dangerous pets. A less-than-favorable portrayal in media combined with their status as exotic animals has led to this erroneous notion. However, as millions of reptile pet owners already know, owning a pet snake is no more dangerous than keeping a dog or a cat.

Though reptiles as a whole are technically considered to be undomesticated animals and therefore haven’t been specifically bred to live alongside humans, many snakes are calm and non-aggressive to the degree that they are safe enough to keep even around small children. If pet safety is your number one priority, here are a few tips to guarantee that you have a safe snake-owning experience.


Dog didn’t become man’s best friend overnight. The process of domesticating wolves into today’s modern-day pooches was a process that spanned millenia. The same general principle also applies to reptiles. While their “lizard brains” aren’t capable of developing the same bonds and affections as other more intelligent animals, snakes bred in captivity are much more social and well-adjusted to human contact than their wild-caught counterparts. While this may not wholly transform whether a species is innately more docile, many snakes that might otherwise be too dangerous to handle can effectively be tamed if they are born and raised in captivity.

The ball python is a great example of this. One of the most popular pet snakes in the industry, this species has been beloved for decades and bred for just as long. Though they seem to display a similarly conflict-avoidance temperament in the wild, it’s no coincidence that ball pythons are one of the original captive-bred snakes and are also one of the friendliest towards humans.

The early access to humans is pivotal in their behavior towards humans later in life. Additionally, captive-bred snakes tend to fare better healthwise as well, having fewer risks of parasites or injury, as well as steady access to food. For this reason, captive-bred snakes can easily have a lifespan that’s a decade or so longer than the same species that was born and raised in the wild. Therefore, to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable snake experience, always check that the snakes for sale are captive-bred and not wild-caught.


A general rule of thumb in the animal kingdom is that the larger the animal, the more aggressive it likely will be. There are exceptions of course, but this mostly holds true for reptiles as well. As such, smaller reptiles naturally tend to be more docile. That’s why it’s no coincidence that species on the smaller end of the spectrum like corn snakes, ball pythons, milk snakes, or hognose snakes have a reputation for being calm and non-aggressive. Around four feet or less in length, they know they would have better luck fleeing or hiding from a threat, rather than attempting to take it on.

Another point in small snakes’ favor is that it also limits the potential harm they could cause. A small body equals a small mouth. In the instance that you own or encounter a snake that feels threatened to the point of striking or biting, it physically cannot inflict as much damage as a larger one would.

So when in doubt about whether a snake might be aggressive or not, its size can be a helpful visual cue. However, don’t assume that because a snake is small that it’s incapable of such behavior. Treat small snakes with the same reverence and care that you would a giant anaconda.


Just as certain dog and cat breeds are known to have particular quirks (both huskies and Siamese cats are talkative; Maine Coons love water; boxers are silly goofballs), so too can specific species of snake. Take king snakes, for instance. They’re often mentioned as a great choice for beginners, but those recommendations are almost always followed with a note about their potential for being feisty.

While it’s impossible to stereotype an entire species or breed, these generalizations tend to stem from the shared experiences of many, many owners and can be a reliable means of whittling down your prospects. A simple search for the most docile snake species is a great way to begin your searching process. You will often find that the calmest, friendliest, and therefore safest, pet snakes are ones frequently mentioned as being great for beginners. The reason is obvious. For a newcomer who isn’t experienced in handling or interacting with snakes, those that are slow to anger will provide the best learning experience.

What About Venomous Snakes?

When discussing snakes and how safe (or unsafe) they are to keep, the idea of venomous snakes is likely at the forefront of your thoughts. Venomous animals are ones that secrete poisonous substances and inject it by biting or stinging their target. It goes without saying that non-venomous snakes are always going to be the safest kind to keep around. Fortunately, avoiding them is easy to do.

Of the 3,000+ living snake species on the planet, only a fraction of them are venomous (about 600 or so). The ones found most commonly in the U.S. include rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes. Unsurprisingly, even the most dedicated of reptile-lovers rarely keep these as pets. In fact, you are highly unlikely to encounter a venomous snake at a pet store. The readily available snakes are almost always going to be of the non-venomous variety.

Why ‘almost’? There are a few species that are technically venomous but are extremely popular and even recommended for beginners! The hognose is an example. These sweet-faced snakes produce a very mild toxin in their saliva. If bitten, their venom does little more than cause slight irritation. It is not dangerous to humans and additionally, their teeny tiny fangs prevent a significant amount of their toxin from being transmitted.

All in all, if your goal is to find safe snakes for sale, look to the species that are recommended for beginners. These provide a shortcut to curated lists that combine the best of all the above-mentioned factors.

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